NEW ORLEANS—A top adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign downplayed tensions over Clint Eastwood's rambling Republican National Convention speech, insisting the candidate thought the actor's routine was funny.
Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist to the Republican nominee, said he was standing backstage with Romney as Eastwood delivered a speech in which he imagined a conversation he might have with President Barack Obama, who was represented onstage by an empty chair.
Stevens said Romney "laughed" at Eastwood's remarks and "enjoyed" the routine. "He was laughing. … We were laughing," Stevens said. "He thought it was funny."
While the Romney campaign downplayed any negative effect of Eastwood's remarks, aides privately acknowledged hand-wringing over the actor-director's remarks, which weren't preapproved by the campaign.
Multiple Romney aides, who declined to be named, said they expected Eastwood, who randomly endorsed Romney last month, to simply offer a full-throated endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor. But one aide acknowledged the campaign began to grow anxious as Eastwood began to ramble on well beyond his allotted five-minute speaking slot and said the campaign wasn't informed about Eastwood's plans to use a prop. An aide said the campaign believed when Eastwood requested a chair to take onstage that he was planning to sit in it.
But Stevens downplayed any tensions between Romney and Eastwood, who had offered to speak at the RNC. Asked if the candidate spoke to Eastwood after his speech Thursday night, Stevens said he wasn't sure, but said Eastwood hung around to watch Romney's speech and the actor was spotted at events after the festivities were over.
Stevens defended the choice to have Eastwood speak, insisting "the audience loved it."
"These Hollywood people get a lot of pressure not to do this stuff, and for him to come out and step up and say I think this is important … the fact that he's there shows he's speaking his mind," Stevens said. "If somebody wants to say I would have liked this different performance or that different performance, have at it. Some people didn't like 'Dirty Harry.' Some people didn't like 'Gran Torino.'"
Asked if he was likening Eastwood's movies to his RNC speech, Stevens smiled and called Eastwood, "an astonishing talent."